Boredom on the Boat
13.07.2009 - 16.07.2009
Our arrival to Georgia was meant to be highly romanticised, arriving by boat to the shores of Kolchis like Jason and the Argonauts (Kolchis is an ancient kindgom in western Georgia, and interestingly enough, to this day there are mountain traditions of using a sheep's fleece to filter the gold out of the rivers, hence the golden fleece). In a cynicism-affirming turn of events, because of "bad weather" (a little rain), or more likely lazy Georgian port authorities, we were stuck on the boat for 3 days, of which the last night we were anchored floating tantalisingly close to shore.
The boat was an interesting experience nonetheless. It seemed that we crossed the Europe-Asia divide when we reached the ramshackle port building in Illichyevsk in the Ukraine, complete with Georgian truckers squatting, smoking, and displaying their fat hairy bellies. The port building was surrounded by token Ex-Soviet industrial buildings that served no obvious purpose apart from creating a post apocalyptic atmosphere. In a Tarkovskyesque attempt, I photographed a few of them, but was immedeately shouted at by some woman, screaming things like "do you want your hands broken?", "do you think you're smarter than us?" and generally implying that the customs officials would rape me (to put it nicely). Nothing came of it.
Anyway, after hours of waiting for the customs officials to arrive, then waiting for the head customs official to have a 3 hour cigarette break, we were driven just to the stairs leading up to the giant MS Greifswald, and then we had to wait (this time in the rain) for them to open the door. The Greifswald is a Northern European (Danish I think) build ferry which took on trucks, trains and a few passangers. The signs on the ferry were in Danish, German, English and Lithuanian, with some paper Russian signs taped over. Clearly it was built for the Baltic, how it ended up ferrying Georgian truckers I have no idea.
There wasn't much to do on the boat. We had 3 meals a day of filling Soviet canteen style food, read, played chess, played capoeira, and slept a lot. The other passengers seemed content chain smoking huddled around the TVs watching terrible Russian programmes (all about crime) or even worse Georgian programmes (a bunch of people talking gibberish) with a light smattering of static. A small group decided to have a backgammon-fest, playing for pretty much the entire time. There were also some Russian and Ukranian truckers on board, but they kept to themselves, the Georgians dominated with their hairy exposed bellies.
Eventually we docked after hours of manuever, to another post apocalyptic Ex-Sovet port. This time with even more rusting piles of scrap metal, abandoned industrial complexes, and even half sunk rusting ships. Amusingly enough there was also a shiny white marina with a gleaming yacht in the middle of all this. Now, Georgia awaits...